THE ruling class state machinations that secured the jailing of a number of Shrewsbury pickets after the first national building workers strike in 1972 is to remain a secret of the ruling class state apparatus.
This was made clear by Home Office Minister Penning on Wednesday as the issue was being debated in Westminster Hall. The reason that this conspiracy remains a state secret is that the ruling class and the capitalist state are getting ready to use the same techniques and measures against the working class, once its new anti- trade union legislation becomes law.
The issues at the centre of the Shrewsbury jailings are not just historical, they are topical and contemporary. In 1971, Tory Prime Minister Heath brought in his anti-union laws, complete with industrial courts, to illegalise the right to strike.
Heath was at war with the working class, particularly with the dockers and the miners, to force through the kind of changes that he thought would save British capitalism. The first national building workers’ strike in 1972 against the Lump, casual labour system, was taken as both a direct challenge by the ruling class and also as an opportunity to show who was the boss!
Heath resolved to crush the strike’s rank-and-file leaders, as a lesson to the working class as a whole. This is the reason why the trial was set up as a state conspiracy to secure convictions by any means that were necessary, so as to teach the working class a lesson in class rule.
The leader of the building workers, Des Warren, was impervious to such tactics. He was a real fighter. He knew no fear. They could not break his spirit, that was indomitable, so they broke his health with the use of the ‘liquid cosh’ while he served his full term in prison, less a few months.
Also in 1972, the Heath government used its anti-union laws to jail five striking dockers, but they were released when the dockers organised mass strikes throughout industry, forcing the TUC to call a one-day general strike for Monday 31 July. The five dockers were released on July 26th.
The TUC leaders however did not take up the fight for Warren, they called no strike action. The TUC leaders were preparing for a Wilson government, and therefore let Warren rot in jail. It was the Wigan Building Workers Action Committee and the SLL, then WRP, that organised the national march that put the freeing of the Shrewsbury Two, Warren and Tomlinson, right out in front.
The Tories were brought down in 1974. Wilson took office but Warren was not freed. He served his full term bar a few months. The Tories put Warren behind bars and Wilson kept him there. In fact, the Labour Home Secretary Jenkins went on to organise an armed police raid on the WRP’s education centre in Derbyshire. Wilson and Jenkins kept the Shrewsbury conspiracy documents under lock and key as did Blair and then Brown.
On Wednesday, Burnham revealed his essential position when he took back his pledge that Labour would not vote for the next set of Tory spying legislation if the Shrewsbury trial documents were not released by the government. He dumped this position explaining that it was just a posture.
The truth is that the Shrewsbury secret papers remain political dynamite because they are just as much about the future under either a Tory or a Labour government as about the past. The big issue is that directly ahead there are going to be the greatest attacks ever on the working class.
The lesson of the Shrewsbury conspiracy is that the capitalist state must be smashed and overthrown, it cannot be modified in the interests of the working class by some radical government winning an election, it must be broken up. The state cannot release the Shrewsbury trial papers because they are just as much about the future as the past.
This is why the need of the hour is to build up the revolutionary party of the working class, the WRP, so that the working class will be able to take the power, release all of the hidden papers, reveal all of the secrets of the ruling class, and bring in socialism.